PITTSBURGH (KDKA/CNN) — A former Hermitage man visiting New Zealand on his honeymoon told his mother that he and his wife were “badly burned” during this week’s volcano eruption by leaving her a voicemail.
Matthew Urey and new wife Lauren were reportedly touring White Island’s volcano when it erupted.
“They were so happy this was their fourth day on the cruise, only the second stop and the volcano just happened to be the excursion they picked to do,” Jane Urey, Matthew’s mother, said.
She said that she received a frightening voicemail from her son after the eruption.
Urey played the message for KDKA: “Hi, mom, it’s me. I just want to let you know this isn’t a joke. The volcano actually erupted while we were on the island. Lauren and I got pretty badly burned. So we’re at a hospital in New Zealand. So I just want to let you know. If you don’t hear from me, we’re fine. But my hands are burned, so I can’t use my phone. I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but I’ll try and keep you updated as best I can.”
He and his wife got off the island, but were taken to separate hospitals.
The couple was honeymooning on the Ovation of the Seas cruise liner after getting married on Oct. 18 in Charleston, South Carolina.
“I prayed for a safe trip, safe flights, just never dreamt I had to pray a volcano would not erupt on my son. Nothing I ever thought of in a million years,” Jane said.
Jane said she’s getting on a Tuesday afternoon flight to be with her son as his surgeries continue.
Almost all patients who were injured in the deadly New Zealand volcanic eruption have suffered extensive burns to their bodies and lungs, as questions mount over the circumstances surrounding the tragedy that has left at least six people dead.
Every burns unit in the country is at full capacity as medical staff do all they can to treat those with severe injuries from the volcanic ash and gas, Ministry of Health spokesman Pete Watson said Tuesday.
Out of the 31 people still in hospital, 27 had burns to at least 30% of their bodies and many have inhalation burns that require airway support.
Given the extent of survivors’ injuries, the death toll could continue to rise. “It’s possible that not all patients will survive,” Watson said.
Authorities are now working to gather information on the dead, injured, and missing, and provide emergency services to those affected, after the eruption on White Island, also known as Whakaari, left at least six people dead. The injured were aged between 13 and 72.
Police confirmed the death of a sixth victim in a statement on Tuesday. The unnamed person was earlier being treated at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland.
Eight people remain missing after Monday’s eruption, which occurred while 47 people were visiting the island. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that citizens from New Zealand, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia had been among those injured and missing following the explosion.
The first victim to be identified dead was Hayden Marshall-Inman, a guide with New Zealand’s White Island Tours, the company that brings tourists to the island. He was killed in the eruption, according to Radio New Zealand.
On Tuesday, Marshall-Inman’s brother Mark Inman paid tribute to him on Facebook, writing: “Friends and family, very sad news this evening. My bro Hayden Marshall-Inman has past [sic] away doing the one thing he loved. Thanks for all your messages. I’ll be in touch when we know more.”
An unnamed Malaysian citizen was among five unidentified people who lost their lives in the immediate aftermath of the incident, according to a Facebook post by the Malaysian High Commission in Wellington.
On Tuesday, New Zealand police walked back on remarks that they would be opening a criminal investigation into the eruption.
Speaking at a news conference, New Zealand Deputy Commissioner John Tims said a criminal investigation would be conducted into the circumstances surrounding the eruption in the coming days.
However, two hours later, a police statement clarified that the force is investigating the deaths and injuries “on behalf of the coroner,” but said that it’s too early to say whether there will be also be a criminal investigation.
The police retraction comes amid a nationwide discussion on culpability and whether visitors should have been allowed on the active volcano. Images captured by GeoNet, the country’s geological hazard information site, appeared to show a group of tourists walking inside the crater just minutes before the eruption.
Prime Minister Ardern said that although the search and rescue operation was the immediate priority, “bigger questions” around the disaster would have to be answered in the coming weeks.
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